By Robert A. Vella
This Sunday’s discussion topics include the indoctrination of children in Florida schools by Christian fundamentalists, the confluence of nationalism and religious fervor on America’s birthday celebration, another bizarre incident embarrasses NSA surveillance operations, and Europe’s centrist establishment attempts to relieve the anti-immigrant pressure building among its population.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Some private schools in Florida that rely on public funding teach students that dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who did not.
The lessons taught at these schools come from three Christian publishing companies whose textbooks are popular on many of about 2,000 campuses that accept, and often depend on, nearly $1 billion in state scholarships, or vouchers.
At the Orlando Sentinel’s request, educators from Florida colleges and school districts reviewed textbooks and workbooks from these publishers, looking at elementary reading and math, middle school social studies and high school biology materials.
They found numerous instances of distorted history and science lessons that are outside mainstream academics. The books denounce evolution as untrue, for example, and one shows a cartoon of men and dinosaurs together, telling students the biblical Noah likely brought baby dinosaurs onto his ark. The science books, they added, seem to discourage students from doing experiments or even asking questions.
Patriotic church services this time of year were so common in the early republic that the Episcopal Church’s national convention in 1786 resolved that “the Fourth of July shall be observed by this church forever, as a day of Thanksgiving to almighty God for the inestimable blessings of Religious and Civil Liberty vouchsafed to the USA,” according to a book about the denomination.
Over the centuries, what it meant to celebrate July 4 in church has changed and been debated. In recent years, the debate has been especially heated, with Christians disagreeing strongly on whether conflating God and country is a right or a heresy.
On this Sunday preceding July 4, many Christians will expect and experience a patriotic bonanza, with flags waving, tributes to political and military leaders, and songs. The evangelical news magazine Christianity Today this week listed the “top patriotic songs sung in churches,” according to Christian Copyright Licensing International. Among the 10 are “America the Beautiful” (#1) and the 1984 country hit “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood (#5).
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has purged hundreds of millions of records logging phone calls and texts that it had gathered from American telecommunications companies since 2015, the agency has disclosed. It had realized that its database was contaminated with some files the agency had no authority to receive.
The agency began destroying the records on May 23, it said in a statement. Officials had discovered “technical irregularities” this year in its collection from phone companies of so-called call record details, or metadata showing who called or texted whom and when, but not what they said.
The National Security Agency did not explain what technical irregularities caused the problem. But an agency spokesman, Chris Augustine, said the problem did not result in any collection of location records from cellphone towers. Under the USA Freedom Act, the agency is not permitted to gather that type of record using its system.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly secured agreements with 14 European Union countries to rapidly return some asylum seekers as she seeks to end a schism in her government over migration policy.
Merkel also says she also wants to establish “anchor centers” to process migrants at Germany’s borders, the dpa news agency reported Saturday.
The announcements came in a letter Merkel wrote to leaders of her Christian Democratic Union’s Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, as well as to her junior coalition government partner, the Social Democrats, after she attended a two-day EU summit in Brussels.
Merkel is seeking to end a three-week standoff with her hard-line Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who heads the CSU.
Seehofer, whose party faces a state election in the fall, has been threatening to turn away migrants at Germany’s border who have already been rejected by the country or who have registered for asylum elsewhere in the EU.